Westerdam Review Sail Date: 12/17/06 Destination: Western Caribbean Ports of Call: Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya Our Info: Myself and my wife are in our 40's, we cruised with 10 family members, 5 adults our age or older, and 5 teenagers (13,16, 18, 19, 19). This is my 7th cruise.
Overall summary (for those that want to cut to the chase!) Very relaxing cruise with picturesque ports of call. Service was excellent, food was good to excellent. Even though it was a full ship, it didn't feel crowded, even on the sea days. The onboard shows were not as good as other cruises, and there was wasn't much night life. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and would recommend this ship and cruise for those looking to take it easy and unwind for a week.
Detailed Summary: To avoid redundancy with other reviews, I will try to let you know what made our trip enjoyable, and things to watch out for, instead of listing everything we did and experienced.
Embarkation: Easy as pie (this was an area that I was concerned with.) We got to the terminal at 11:15, and they were already letting people inside to process them through. Short line, maybe a 10 minute wait. * Tip: Be sure to fill out the Immigration Questionnaire online before going, then al you have to do is hand it over with your other documents. Once on the ship, they lead us into the Lido dining room for lunch, eating turned out to be theme for us on this trip! * Tip: Check the room card they issued you to make sure you and everyone in your party have the dining time and are at the same table as you requested. If it wrong, take this time to go to the Vista Dining room to get it corrected (2nd and 3rd floor, aft - the sooner the better.) * Tip: Also, if you want to book the Pinnacle Grill, the earlier the better, if you didn't book ahead of time. Thursday was the Gala Dinner in the regular dining room (Lobster and Fillet Mignon) so it is probably best to pick another night to dine in the Pinnacle Grill. We had a party of 10, and couldn't get a reservation until Saturday, and it worked out great, it was our farewell dinner, and the food and service great!! We departed on time, and they had a party of sorts at the Aft pool, deck nine. If you like sun, this is the pool to hang out at, if you need more shade, then the center Lido pool on the same deck is better. Both pools have waiters and bars. For the first night of the cruise, they had low limit gambling ($1 blackjack, low limit craps, and the game I played throughout the week, Texas Hold em for $2-$4.) If you want to try gambling, but don't want to play for high stakes, this would be the night to try the dealers I encountered were all friendly and helpful to those just learning.
Dinners in the main dining room: The food was very good and we ate way too much on most nights! The first night our group of 10 were split up (2 joined the cruise at the last minute.) The service was a little slow for us. The next day, they were able to move us to a table for 10. To help ensure we received quicker service, when I met our permanent waiter I told him exactly what we were looking for, and gave him $40. (Someone on here posted that tip before our cruise) and it worked like a charm. From that moment on, I was his best friend, and he called me Sir Charles the rest of the cruise to my brother's dismay! * Tip: If you want to make sure you get a specific style of service, like a faster paced dinner, then an up front gratuity works wonders. We ended up pre tipping our wine steward too, and she kept the wine glasses full, and the white chilled constantly for us. * Tip: At dinner, if you don't see anything you like on the menu, you can always order a steak. Also ,they don't hesitate to bring you a 2nd entree if you like, one of our teenagers had a bottomless pit, and had 3 entrees once or twice. In fact, on lobster and steak night, our Maitre D came by and asked each one of use if he could get us another lobster tail! (They were good too!)
Shows: I only attended 4 of the 7 and wasn't too entertained. The magician was amateurish, and the first stage production was not too good. I was told I missed the 2 best shows, Lance Ringhald, the gymnast and the singer, Alfreda Gerald. Also, they had a ship wide American Idol contest that lasted all week that was entertaining.
Stateroom: We had a Standard Verandah (5072) and really enjoyed it. The beds were great, chairs outside comfortable and it had plenty of drawer space. * Tip: Be sure to utilize the hidden drawers at the foot of the bed. One group of our party never found them. We did room service breakfast 3 mornings, and each time the food came hot, and on time (they give you a time frame to choose, like 8:00 AM - 8:30 AM, each time the food came near the end of the window.) Our room steward did great, keeping our room clean and the ice bucket full. We used a lot of ice. * Tip: They had an ice machine behind a steward door across the hall from us, and our room steward told us it was OK to get our own ice if we didn't see him.
Sea Days: Chairs in the sun at the aft pool were taken by around 9AM on sea days, which didn't bother me, I am an early riser. Even though they say no saving seats, everyone does. There are chairs on deck 10 in the rear and near the front of the ship, these didn't fill up as quick. * Tip: If you plan on saving a seat, put something personal on it that won't blow away, a book, shoes, etc. If you just put a ship's towel on it, it could be taken. We saw some cool clips a couple used to attach their towels to the top of the seats. They looked something like chip clips, and they worked great. I'm getting some before my next cruise! * Tip: If you drink beer, get the 5 pack bucket. They serve it in ice and you save a few dollars. We placed our open beer in the bucket of ice to keep it cold until it was empty! If you don't finish the beer, you can take them to your cabin. We also took a couple of beer coozies, we didn't use them on the ship too, much, but we did use at the ports of call. They have a nice basketball court onboard (2 baskets), the balls are always up there, so its real easy to just go up and shoot around or get up a half court game. They have volleyball on the same court, but no one played on our cruise. On sea days they have Texas Hold em Tourneys too. Single table tourney, 10 people, $30 entry, $250 payout. They hold 4 to 5 each sea day. If you are interested, you need to make sure you sign up the previous day.
Ports: Half Moon Cay: Relaxing day at the beach. * Tip: Don't wait too long to get the bar-b-q lunch, they start tearing down about 30 minutes before they say they close. Also, they served some great tasting Mahi-Mahi, instead of getting it from the buffet line pan, you can go over to the grill and ask the cook for a piece that's hot off the burner!
Grand Turk: Another Relaxing Day at the beach/pool. Margaretaville is a fun place with a big pool, right at the docks. Be aware if you choose to stay here, the drinks/food are expensive (a beer cost $6.50.) This is a lively place with a Dj that gets the crowd involved.
Grand Cayman: We booked Captain Byran's Stingray and snorkel trip and had a blast. When we got to Stingray City it was full of boats, so they took us snorkeling first on a coral reef right outside of the stingrays. It was very good snorkeling with tons of fish, and interesting coral. By the time we were through, some spots opened up to swim with the sting rays - those critters are big!! * Tip: Booking this excursion independently costs us $30 each compared to $49 each through the excursions desk.
Costa Maya: We shopped some at the port then took a bus ($3 pp one way, $2 pp return) to Mahahual. This turned out to be one of our best days of the cruise! There were little restaurant/bars lined up along the water, with chairs and tables right on the beach. We ended up going to Tappas because they had a table that held all 9 of us and they had Coronas and Dosequis - just $10 for 6 beers! They had good food too, but we mostly drank. The teenagers had a blast renting jet skis, going out beyond the reef into the big surf. (Good price too - $40 for 2 on a big jet ski for 30 minutes.) They also had a guide with them on a separate ski at all times. * Tip: If you go to Mahahual, you can work a deal with whatever restaurant you choose to spend the day at. Make sure you agree to everything you will be receiving for free before sitting down. They gave us all free tequila shots (that was pretty much standard.) They also said we got free chips and salsa, which was true, but only the 1st couple of orders. If I had known, I would have had them agree to free chips all day before we sat down. Also, if you have kids, you should be able to get them to give your kids free fruit punch (if you don't mind your kids drinking fruit punch.) Just make everything clear before sitting down, they will write it down. If you go to Tappas look up Edwin, he was great! We did most of our shopping in town and at the port too, they have lots of gift items for those at home.
Debarkation: Again, no problems at all, very fast and orderly. If you want breakfast, get up there early, they start closing down around 8:15AM. (A great morning for room service!)
Miscellaneous: Formal nights were Monday and Thursday Daytime ship activities started on time (like Team Trivia) if you were late, you didn't play! Sports Bar received ESPN, but not regular network channels, so we couldn't watch football on Sunday. Pools are fresh water, and are much warmer than other ships we have traveled on. Chocolate soft serve ice cream was awesome! Spa was impressive, but expensive. One of our party got a couple of massages and loved them. Mahahaul has good massages too, right off the beach. (theirs was $20 for 45 min. to one hour.) Crow's Nest is great during the day - fantastic views. Very underused at night.